In recent weeks, Sunderland have finally discovered some form under Phil Parkinson. However, with success comes scrutiny as people take notice of emphatic scorelines and cheerful fans.
Should Sunderland’s positive form continue, players within the team will be examined by teams higher up the football league pyramid. As such, for this club to be a successful, sustainable team, Sunderland will need to constantly have one eye on the future to avoid potential pitfalls.
A long-term approach to recruitment strategy is something club’s like Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, and FC Porto have adopted in order to boost their finances through player sales whilst also maintaining a level of consistency and stability in their playing squad.
Recently, Denver Hume has turned in several impressive performances, which will have been noted by teams in the Championship and potentially beyond. With limited cover in the left wing back position, Sunderland would do well to have a young alternative already at the club in order to both provide support to Hume and guard against any potential transfer approach for the academy youngster.
Sustainable clubs with long-term planning have targets already in mind when first-team players start regularly producing the goods - Sunderland could do well to start planning for the future now.
Club: Crewe Alexandra
Appearances: 22 this season
In a recent interview with Cheshire Live, veteran defender Nicky Hunt spoke highly of the young talent Crew currently boast:
We’ve got a few older lads who are doing terrifically well, but I’ve been at a lot of clubs and to be honest the youth that we have in this team at the moment is up there with the best I’ve played with.
They just play without any fear whatsoever, I’ve seen a few over the years but I think we have at least five or six who can definitely crack the Championship and maybe go onto the big Premier League.
Perry Ng, Ryan Wintle, Harry McKirdy, and Charlie Kirk might be the bigger names on show, but left back Harry Pickering looks a cracking young player.
With 4 assists in 32 games last season, Pickering has already managed 2 assists and 2 goals this campaign. Furthermore, Pickering averages 2.3 key passes per game - over twice as many as Denver Hume - showing his attacking potential.
Solid defensively and standing at around 6 feet tall, Pickering makes very few errors, and makes close to twice as many tackles as Hume does for Sunderland on average. Pickering could be a great option if Sunderland are looking to bring in a left back capable of providing Hume with competition.
Club: Rochdale (Loaned from Sheffield Utd)
Appearances: 19 this season
After an impressive start to the season, sides will be interested in the Welsh full back who is on loan at Rochdale from Sheffield United.
With 4 big chances created this season and at least 1 key pass per game, Norrington-Davies is performing to the same standards as Denver Hume offensively.
Defensively, Norrington-Davies is sound, with almost 2 tackles per game as well as over 2 clearances - slightly better than Denver Hume’s defensive contributions.
Whether Sheffield United would want to sell would be another matter; however, one thing is for certain - that Norrington-Davies has a bright future ahead of him.
Club: Accrington Stanley (Loaned from Fulham)
Appearances: 16 this season
Standing at 6”4, Fulham’s Jerome Opoku can play in central defence or out wide, and with 3 assists already this season, it’s clear to see that the youngster has the attacking qualities required to potentially be an effective wing back.
Opoku is a more than competent defender, making on average close to 2 tackles per game and over 1.4 interceptions per game - impressive compared to Norrington Davies’ 0.6 interceptions per game and Hume’s 0.4.
Offensively, Opoku has just under 1 key pass per game - similar to other players listed in this article, though Harry Pickering is the undeniable leader in this department. Furthermore, Opoku dribbles just as much as Hume, though not as successfully.
With his contract said to expire this summer, Opoku will be attracting attention throughout League One and perhaps even in the Championship.